Warmer weather means its time to do some science experiments outside! Kids will love making a soda bottle rocket with simple household materials. This fun science demonstration is easy to do and will definitely impress your kids. Our rocket flew higher than our two story house!
This post was originally published in April 2016 and was updated March 2019.
This is a fun outdoor science project for kids of all ages. Use a simple baking soda and vinegar reaction to launch your rocket. Who knew that baking soda and vinegar had that much power?
At the bottom of this post, I have an explanation of the science behind it.
Want to see our bottle rocket in flight? Here’s a video demonstration!
Here is what you need to make one:
- A 2 liter soda bottle
- 3 pencils (unsharpened is best)
- Duct tape
- A cork that fits the soda bottle
- Paper towels
- Baking soda
- Vinegar – we went through an entire large bottle, so get a lot!
First, prepare your rocket. Basically, all we did was to build a stand for the rocket. We were concerned that adding decorations would make the rocket heavier, which would not allow it to go as high.
We went to a birthday party a couple weeks ago and made a bottle rocket with a water bottle. They used pencils as “feet” for the rocket to stand on, and I thought it was a brilliant idea!
Once your rocket is ready, it’s time to launch!
I failed to get a good photo of our baking soda packets, but what you need is a small square of paper towel (we used half of a select-a-size paper towel). Dump in some baking soda (we didn’t measure) and fold the paper towel around it. It needs to be narrow enough to fit through the mouth of your bottle. You can kind of see our baking soda packet in the photo below.
Pour in some vinegar. We used about two inches worth, but again we didn’t measure.
(Turn this into a science experiment by using different quantities of baking soda and vinegar and recording how high your rocket goes!)
After pouring in the vinegar, quickly push in the baking soda packet and then push in the cork. Turn the bottle over and wait for it to launch! It can take up to 30 seconds.
Be careful of pushing in the cork too tightly – our first rocket did not launch because of that, and when we pulled the cork out it had a LOT of pressure behind it. Once Aidan got the hang of how tightly to push it in, our launches were all successful after that.
Be sure to stand back… It’s starting to foam!
LIFTOFF! What a great demonstration of Newton’s 3rd law of motion!
The Science Behind It:
The baking soda and vinegar that we used in this bottle rocket create an acid/base reaction. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, and the chemical formula is NaHCO3. Vinegar, or acetic acid, is HCH3COO. A baking soda and vinegar reaction is actually two parts. It happens so fast that we don’t realize that it’s actually two reactions. First, carbonic acid is formed. This quickly breaks down into water and carbon dioxide gas. The other product of the reaction is sodium acetate, which you can use to make Hot Ice. All the CO2 gas that is formed by the reaction creates pressure inside the bottle. The pressure builds up until it pushes the cork out of the opening of the bottle. Then WHOOOOSH! We have liftoff!
The rocket flies high because of Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The CO2 gas and liquid push out of the bottom of the rocket, which pushes the rocket upwards with great force!
It’s a great time of year to get outside! Here are more fun backyard projects:
- Make a Pool Noodle Rocket Flinger – easy homemade toy!
- Build Your Own American Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course – Kids can change this around to create a new obstacle course every time!
- Here are several fun Backyard Projects from One Crazy House. Love these ideas for creating a fun play space!
Amanda Jun 4, 2016
Can I ask why you didn't just pour the baking soda in the bottle?
Cindy Taylor Jul 13, 2016
You don't want the reaction to start immediately. You need to have time to put the cork in, stand up the rocket and get back before it starts.
breanna Dec 13, 2018
how high did you get the rocket to go?
Erick Jun 3, 2019
The baking soda would react with the vinegar so fast that you would not have time to add the Cork and set the rocket.
The paper towel was to slow down the reaction time.
Tera Thompson Jul 24, 2016
Where can I find a cork?
chris Feb 12, 2018
Emma Jul 1, 2020
You can find a cork at a craft store like Michaels.
Lana Aug 27, 2016
So much FUN!!! Four successful launches - now we are heading out to get more vinegar.
He loved watching the video - that really got his attention.
Thank you for sharing such fun ideas for my little man and me to try.
Terry Mar 18, 2017
It's inspire me to do this project with my class. Tq...
Kim Godfrey May 8, 2017
Where do you find a cork that fits a water bottle?
Ayla Jul 12, 2017
Didn't see any comments on the size for the cork... I used a size 10 cork from hobby lobby for this project.
Jenn Jun 2, 2019
You're the MVP of this post. We don't drink wine or know anyone who does. Thank you for suggesting HL. I had NO idea I could get a cork there. Worked like a charm!
Sue Jul 16, 2017
Tried this today with my Grandchildren first one the Cork wasn't tight enough 2nd one leaked slightly so only managed about 4 foot off the ground but our 3rd attempt was brilliant about 10ft high then it hit the house and whirled around so much fun and laughter thanks for the idea
paul Sep 29, 2017
we tried this and it went 2 centimeters in the air
Steve Sheldon Mar 6, 2018
You can't put too much liquid in or it will be too heavy to fly. About 1/4 to 1/3 full works best. (Science teacher here.)
Melissa Jun 24, 2018
Is there anything that can be used besides a cork?
Carmen Mar 1, 2022
Rubber plug #4 from a store.
dj Aug 24, 2018
thank you for helping me find my science project
thank you very much
Grandma DD Nov 5, 2018
Will a 1.5 liter bottle work? Off to the store to buy a BIG bottle of vinegar.
Sarah Nov 6, 2018
Yes, that should work! You may need to adjust your amounts, but the concept is the same.
Viginia HendricksonVeey Jul 1, 2021
Very fun looking!!!!
Tanya Jul 30, 2019
We found the 2 litre bottles more fun but the small water bottles worked well too.
jack Mar 28, 2019
i only have 19$
Bob Nolan Apr 20, 2019
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Marie Loveless May 28, 2019
Great post. My boys will love this.
Jenn Jun 2, 2019
Thank you SO much for this post!! We're having a rocket themed birthday party for my son and were looking for a few fun activities to include. The post was perfectly informative and we had mild success on our first launch and perfect success on our second. Thank you so much for taking the time to provide the info for others to replicate. As mentioned by "Ayla" above, the size 10 cork from Hobby Lobby works perfectly for the 2 liter bottle.
Zenande Oct 17, 2019
Love the experiment you inspired my whole science club now we doing the project too thanks so much
Meghan Souza Nov 14, 2019
Has anyone measured the amount of baking soda and vinegar to use? Looking for exact measurements for the lab directions.
Ashely King May 18, 2020
Thank you. Thank you. This one was a blast (no pun intended)
Sahana Jul 1, 2020
Did u put the paper towel inside the rocket or did u just pour the powder in?
Sarah Jul 6, 2020
Yes, put the paper towel inside the rocket. You're kind of making a little packet of baking soda. This helps the reaction not happen so quickly, so that you have time to put the cork in.
Fun Grandma Jul 11, 2020
Be sure to use 2 liter bottle. I had both 1 and 2 liter. The 1 liter built up pressure too fast. The 2 liter was awesome fun. The concoction killed the grass but it was worth it.
Kavin Jul 12, 2020
that's a great demonstration that really teaches us some logics of chemistry and physics
Krista Jul 31, 2020
We just did this project today with our 10yr daughter. We definitely enjoyed it!!
Holly B. Aug 17, 2020
Well, I forgot to get corks for our Hands-On Learning Class at co-op. Tonight I tried out just putting the lid on loosely. It worked like a charm! This experiment will be a great introduction to rockets. Thanks for posting!
Elizabeth Sep 23, 2020
We used a large Gatorade bottle. Instead of a cork (we didn’t have one), we used a little children’s medicine cup. It fit perfectly! And you can adjust the tightness easily.
cheryl Feb 18, 2021
Huge Success. The grandkids loved it. I was surprised at how high it went. Going to do this again for sure. Thanks
Mary Apr 19, 2021
Does the vinegar and baking soda injure the grass?
Sarah Apr 19, 2021
We did not have any damage to our grass! We did this in a rainy part of the year, so it probably didn't stay on the grass long. You could always rinse the area with a hose after doing the rockets if you want.
Ellie Apr 5, 2022
Will the rocket work with the lid to replace the cork?
Sarah Apr 6, 2022
No, I would not do that!! The bottle lid would not be able to come off, so you may end up exploding the bottle, which could be dangerous. With this project, you want the cork to be snug, but not so tight that it won't come off. When the pressure builds up inside the bottle, the cork will pop out and the rocket will launch.
Katrina May 19, 2022
Great post! Thank you! So helpful!
1 cup of vinegar with 1 Tablespoon of baking soda was the ratio that worked for us.
Katrina May 19, 2022
And our blue box hardware store (not the orange one) had the cheapest corks. Size #9 worked perfectly!
Beth May 27, 2022
We have added wheels and made cars but it gets expensive for a group.
We use the mini water water bottles less vinegar. We also use an ice cream bucket with a whole in the lid as launching pad. Adding a few drops of food coloring to the water is fun too.
Sheila Feb 22, 2023
Thanks for the fun activity idea! Was the cork hard to find after blast off?
Sarah Feb 26, 2023
No, it was not hard to find at all!
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